Google-parent Alphabet fires robots that performed everyday office chores
It isn't just humans that are affected by the layoff season. Robots have been hit too. Google parent Alphabet has decided to shutter Everyday Robots, one of its youngest subsidiaries, a year after graduating from the company's secretive X moonshot lab. The department had a team of over 200 people working on several exploratory projects.
Why does this story matter?
- The ongoing tech layoffs have not spared anyone. Alphabet's decision proves that not even robots are safe when the macroeconomic headwinds are as strong as they are.
- The company's decision to close down the experimental department is also a sign of robotics taking a back seat. Alphabet's immediate focus is on improving its AI capabilities to take on OpenAI and ChatGPT.
The robots tidied the company's dining hall
At Everyday Robots, the team developed and trained over 100 wheeled and one-armed robots to squeegee cafeteria tables, separate trash, recycle, and open doors, among other chores. While they were being trained, the robots undertook several tasks, such as tidying up the company's dining hall and checking the cleanliness of conference rooms during the pandemic, Wired reported.
Some technology and members will move to other teams
"Everyday Robots will no longer be a separate project within Alphabet," said Denise Gamboa, director of marketing and communications for Everyday Robots. "Some of the technology and part of the team will be consolidated into existing robotics efforts within Google Research," she added. The company has not shared which assets and team members of Everyday Robots will transition to other research teams.
Google's robotics acquisition spree hasn't resulted in great success
The end of Everyday Robots is not unfamiliar territory for the company. The fascination of Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page with robotics resulted in an acquisition spree of robotics companies a decade ago. However, none of the companies managed to take off. The company's quest to find a consumer product is yet to take shape.
Alphabet laid off about 6% of its staff
Alphabet laid off about 12,000 employees last month in one of the biggest tech layoffs this year. The job cuts were a result of economic uncertainties and the rapid increase in the company's headcount. The layoffs affected various departments across the company. Intrinsic, a subsidiary of Alphabet that works on industrial robots, lost 20% of its staff.